JiWire Rolls Out Location-Based Ad Platform

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Public Wi-Fi network provider JiWire continues to capitalize on the hyper-local advertising craze online and via mobile devices. Fresh off its distribution deal with Groupon, the company Wednesday unveiled a new location-focused ad format that provides detailed information about the proximity and availability of products advertised.

JiWire's new "Compass" ads for smartphones, tablets and laptops promise consumers a package of localized data and services, from walking and driving directions to nearby stores to whether a product is in stock locally as well as the ability to put products on hold or make online purchases ready for pickup.

All that and other in-ad options are delivered after the click-through in an app-like unit that expands to fill most of the screen. In addition to showing store locations or driving directions, marketers can also add a tab providing more product information through content including promotional videos and demonstrations.

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JiWire, which operates a network of 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide at cafes, airports and hotels, already offers geotargeted ads for running localized campaigns. But company CEO Kevin McKenzie emphasized that the Compass ads provide a wider and deeper range of localized information around a brand.

"It's a smarter ad. This platform not only allows a user to understand a message but to really engage with it as if the ad was an app. 'Where can I buy this now?' 'Who has it in stock?' 'How do I get there?'" he said.

Much of the new functionality, along with the ability to reserve products via Compass ads, came through JiWire's acquisition last month of location-based service provider NearbyNow. Combining those features with an audience of 40 million through its Wi-Fi network and third-party apps that integrate its technology, the company believes its scale is an advantage for hot location-based startups like Foursquare and Gowalla, with much smaller user bases.

The company's partnership with Groupon announced last week won't hurt either. The alliance, allowing the popular deal-of-the day site to extend local offers from cities to specific neighborhoods, is tied to the new Compass platform. Other launch partners named today include The Gap, cosmetics retailer Clinique and Ritz Camera.

JiWire says banks, business copy and shipping centers, auto dealers, retail outlets, nationwide electronics stores and consumer packaged goods are also planning to use Compass ads. McKenzie said the Compass unit is being sold on a CPM basis to start, but he envisions that model expanding to various types of cost-per-lead or cost-per-action options depending on the types of interaction a campaign is trying to drive.

The new format has no minimum buy, but McKenzie noted that JiWire has already closed a number of seven-figure deals with Fortune 100 brands this year as demand for location-based advertising heats up. "Brands still care a lot about social media. But now they're asking how to participate in this local space and we're giving them a toolkit to be able to participate quickly and easily," he said.

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